LOS ANGELES — SAG-AFTRA members voted overwhelmingly in favor of giving their leaders authority to strike against video game companies if they can’t reach a deal over a new contract, the union announced Monday.
The authorization, which does not trigger a strike but is intended to give leaders bargaining leverage, brings the union closer to a second potential work stoppage that would further disrupt the entertainment industry.
SAG-AFTRA’s film and television actors have been on strike since mid-July, when they joined WGA writers on picket lines for the first time in 63 years. (The writers and major Hollywood studios struck a tentative deal Sunday.)
The union said the strike authorization was approved by 98% of those who voted. It comes as union leaders and game companies prepare for another round of bargaining over the Interactive Media Agreement set to begin Tuesday.
The agreement, negotiated in 2017, expired last November and covers about 2,600 performers. That agreement did not address AI — a key concern in both the SAG-AFTRA film and TV actors’ strike and the WGA writers’ strike.
Game actors and performers argue that AI poses an equal or even greater threat to those in the video game industry than it does in film and TV, particularly because many do voice-over work.
The performers have said that they don’t expect companies to stop using AI. Instead, they argued, workers should have contracts that require their consent to reproduce their voice or likeness and compensate them when that does happen.
Sarah Elmaleh, chair of the interactive negotiating committee, said that some members are excited about the potential for new revenue streams with AI, while others are more wary.
“AI is being litigated literally and culturally and economically, all in real time right now,” she said. “The responsible thing to do is to say, what you can’t do is cut us out of this conversation.”
Audrey Cooling, spokesperson for the video game producers who are party to the Interactive Media Agreement, said recently that the companies “all want a fair contract.”
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